Columns Commercial Record

Blue Star

By Scott Sullivan
50th Reunion
As a diabetic, pokes and pricks-abetted, it’s imperative I have insulin. At the druggist’s I saw:

Good health
In a single stop
Sign up for
Shingles shots here

The cute dark pharmacist on the cardboard sign next to the poem would prick me, then no shingles. If I signed up I might say tongue-tied, “I want my singles sh*t …”
“Why are you talking to a cardboard sign?” the real druggist would ask.
“No insulin I die!” I would cry.
“No more drugs for you.”

A 50th high school reunion invite on my computer has links to videos. Skip the tourist crap. If you’ve actually lived in place you know how unreal that is.
Another video
showed a guy shooting through his windshield 12/21/21 as he drove from West Lafayette’s Purdue campus down State Street over the Wabash River to the East Side and back. Late-winter light blazed on streets bare except for exchange students, singly or in knots, not home on winter break. They leaned into cold west wind funneled down the street.
Tunnels ran under State from Krannert to the Union. No weather and blank geometry. Existential hours could be spent there.
Old town’s Harry’s Chocolate Shop didn’t sell chocolate but kept your cups full and Boilermaker ballgames on TV. Outside from the groans and cheers you could tell how the team was faring.
The Triple-XXX … “Why nine X’s?” I wondered, then figured out. Waitresses balancing platters of frosted root beer mugs placed on drive-in car trays were worth every one..
New immigrant Bruno Itin brought his Swiss spin on pizza, Purdue sports and gemutlichkeit to off-campus in 1955, the year I was born. “The Big O,” his son Orlando, was a round kid who hammered baseballs. My younger brother Steve pinch-ran for him.
The Wabash ran brown with sandy sediment and black topsoil washing off in spring rains when it flooded. We walked down through wooded ravines to its banks. Other-side tree lines and fields reflected, currents rushed or gurgled.
Arc a stone, plunk, concentric ripples dispersed as the water carried them. Out further, near the middle, debris — semi-floating brush, branches, trash — flowed serenely. When it flooded it swallowed but was slowed by trees which spun eddies outward. Corn I’d eat tonight grew in what went by.
Over the bridge laid Lafayette, motto Pourquios Pas (French for “Why not?”). Let me count the ways. It was twice West Side’s population, had a park with zoo.
Downtown was a grid of Hoosier-practical brick and limestone buildings, many pastel-painted and/or with fanciful stone-carved ledges.You could watch “2001: A Space Odyssey” in the Mars Theater, come out at 13 into blinking light and think this is coming fast.
Back across the bridge, students’ cheeks turned red and you felt outside the tunnels. On Wabash Levee rose the six-story Hilton Garden Inn, built in 2003 but new to me, our reunion hotel if I went.
The video veered north onto the sports complex, Ross-Ade Stadium and Mackey Arena. Between them I spotted Purdue’s oldest all-men’s dorm Cary Quad, home of Nude Olympics the coldest day every winter; the old Lambert Fieldhouse — rickety bleachers, old-time basketball seen through a sepia of smoke and popcorn scents — and the Elliott Hall of Music, all made of red bricks like the smokestack that pledged we were potent in a land-grant school. Farmers, engineers, astronauts, you are in your place.
Blackbird Pond west on Lindbergh Road teemed with life in summers. Freshmen sought bugs there for biology class collections. Damsel, dragon and butterflies were the most conspicuous but … stay still, focus, hear a trill … specimens were everywhere. Birds of all songs and colors fed on them.
Frosh daring Rat Traps (school mixers so named since we lived ‘cross river) were snatched per legend by beer-swigging seniors who sped Dad’s old Buicks out to Blackbird and there dumped naked. I never went.
I read, wrote, played sports phonetically (verbs and consonants caught game rhythms) but on court frenetically. Too many other narratives. Mordant joy set in. I could sit on a hill, toss walnuts, argue what was real with classmates and watch nuts’ husks splay on concrete and open innards rolling under car tires.

With low blood sugar, I grow delirious. Where am I? Pricked with glucose I come to bouncing in an ambulance. “Gotta fix potholes or shocks,” I say. EMTs wheel me through hospital doors.
“I need insulin,” I say.
“You need nothing,” the head nurse says.

To be continued

Leave a Reply